Review by Frank Plowright
When Sex Criminals fist appeared it was fresh, it was funny and it was imaginative, and it picked up an Eisner Award. The best of it is the first two paperbacks One Weird Trick and Two Worlds, One Cop, combined in this hardcover, after which it became, well, not as funny, and not as imaginative.
A part of what makes the early Sex Criminals so enjoyable is the treatment of sex as adult entertainment in the best sense of the term. Pretty well all of us enjoy sex, and Sex Criminals presents it as it is for most people, certainly fun, but not the glamorised fantasy version. Separately, Suzie and Jon discover that when they orgasm, time stands still. For a limited period they’re able to wander around the world altering things, but no-one else knows. While it lasts, Jon’s in the habit of taking a dump in the potted plant in his manager’s office, which is as good an indication as any of the level of humour Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarksy provide. It can be sophisticated, yet for the most part it isn’t, but don’t we all love the puerile at times?
Suzie and Jon inevitably meet, and a relationship proves more fulfilling than solo sex. Along the way we learn about their past and present, with both on forms of medication, and both become fully realised and never idealised. The fallible and all too human personalities are very much defined by Zdarksy’s naturalistic cartooning and consistency. Suzie, Jon and other cast members look the same throughout, and their expressions play a big part. He also contributes to the humourous feel by plastering the backgrounds with funny signs.
Fraction’s not a linear storyteller, so discoveries come gradually as he flits about past and present, but who wants everything revealed at once? He also has the cast address readers directly, and everything changes when a decision is taken to rob Jon’s bank as time stands still to stop Suzie’s library closing down. It leads to the discovery that Suzie and Jon are not the only people able to wander around in what Jon calls Cum World, and that’s when Sex Criminals becomes more complicated. They meet a group who’re concerned with policing the still world, and who aren’t amused at Suzie and especially Jon’s activities. However, the discovery of others sharing the experience makes for a more varied cast, which gradually expands, although never too far, as the series continues.
This is smart, funny and prone to meandering all over the place before returning to the topic at hand. Sex Criminals progresses into some interesting areas starting with the next volume, but is never again as joyful as this.